Об одной научной полемике, или из истории изучения цаконского диалекта

Translated title of the contribution: About one scholarly polemic, or from the history of Tsakonian studies

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


It is almost generally accepted now that Tsakonian is a unique Modern Greek dialect and it originates directly from Ancient Doric Laconian. This statement was already present in the first linguistic descriptions of the dialect in the 19th century and was referred to as a basic one that requires no discussion. The German classicist Michael Deffner was the first to apply comparative analysis to Tsakonian phonetics (1881) and thus he managed to demonstrate systematic connections between Tsakonian and Laconian.
Deffner’s publication revealed Tsakonian data to his contemporaries, although not all of them approved of his approach. One of those who became interested in Tsakonian but could not accept Deffner’s conclusions and methods was the famous demoticist Ioannis Psycharis, because Deffner, evidently, supported the ideas of his rival Georgios Hatzidakis.
Psycharis and his student and colleague Hubert Pernot believed that many Tsakonian phenomena treated as Laconian or Doric heritage had been misinterpreted and they should be approached from the point of view of synchronic typological analysis. Pernot found multiple “Tsakonian” peculiarities in other Modern Greek dialects as well and proved that at least some of them could be better explained by means of medieval or modern evidence. As a result, Pernot proposed a new typological approach to
Tsakonian which actually admits Laconian origin of the dialect but does not regard it as a crucial factor for linguistic description. Although this approach deeply affected posterior Tsakonian studies, its core seems to have been somehow forgotten: many papers use typological analysis to demonstrate uniqueness of Tsakonian. This happened, probably, due to Thanasis Costakis. He was a student of Pernot but, as a Tsakonian himself, he definitely emphasized Laconian origin of the dialect because for him it was a basis of Tsakonian identity.
In this paper, I observe how the variety of approaches to Tsakonian depends on ideological and theoretical background of the scholars involved in Tsakonian studies and their goals. I believe that nowadays it is not really important to discuss again the Laconian origin of Tsakonian. It would be more promising to deal with the current state of the dialect, for example, to
investigate the impact of Standard Modern Greek and the possible future of the dialect. It means that linguists and anthropologists should analyze the relations between the dialect and modern identity of its (possible) speakers and to find out if (and how) the dialect can respond to their current needs.
Translated title of the contributionAbout one scholarly polemic, or from the history of Tsakonian studies
Original languageRussian
Pages (from-to)493-511
JournalИндоевропейское языкознание и классическая филология
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019
EventИндоевропейское языкознание и классическая филология (Чтения памяти И.М.Тронского - Институт лингвистических исследований РАН, Санкт-Петербург, Russian Federation
Duration: 24 Jun 201926 Jun 2019
Conference number: 23

Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • history of Modern Greek studies
  • Modern Greek dialects
  • Tsakonian
  • Greek language question
  • Hatzidakis
  • Deffner
  • Psycharis
  • Pernot
  • Costakis
  • Linguistic Anthropology

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